Psalm 119: 71 --- 'It is good for me that I have been afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.'
There will be times when you read this verse, and wonder what it means.
At other times it will be too painful.
Sadness is a fairly common part of everyday life, as Inside Out might have taught you. Grief, however, is different. It is not simply, like sadness, the 'opposite of happiness'. It is a complicated and extended process of emotional suffering which has a permanent effect on you. It's like an earthquake hitting a city, making your tallest skyscrapers and biggest buildings--everything that made you complacent, assured, everything that seemed so immovable and permanent to you--collapse. It negates roadmaps and street signs--what previously made perfect sense to you--and drastically changes your needs. Having faulty traffic lights fixed is suddenly not important anymore. Food, medical attention, a roof over your head--you just need the basic necessities to survive.
The process of healing, too, is like having to rebuild your demolished city--without being able to dispose of all the rubble. It remains as a foundation for the new buildings, always there as a humbling reminder of fragility, pain, and weakness--in the past, and present.
I've observed such humbling in certain people who experienced this sort of suffering. They have less assumptions. Are simpler. Kinder. Gentler. More empathetic. Less judgemental. It has truly brought them closer to Christ--closer to understanding Him--closer to being like Him. This is what Jesus is like; humble in His obedience, in His love, and in serving. He suffered too, in His time here, which is why we know He understands, and why He is so patient and gentle with us in our weaknesses. Such gentleness and empathy is only possible through humility. We can only care for others when we stop caring so much for ourselves. We can best appreciate their strengths when we have no delusions or pretensions on our own, when we aren't instinctively comparing ourselves. We can only help them discern their weaknesses when we're not busy trying to deny our own.
Watching them has taught me to have more hope and faith in suffering and in God's ability to let changes that may feel so painful to work such wonders, even in me. Perhaps the pain will never quite go away, just as earthquake prone zones experience recurring tremors. The rebuilding will take time, may be slow and constantly being set back. Sometimes that site was so badly devastated, you can never quite build something as momentous there again. But the rubble that looks so ugly, that is such a sobering reminder to you of how fragile all these buildings are, how much wreckage there once was here, is also hope in its own way. If another earthquake--and you flinch at the thought--should come and devastate this new city, you have the comfort of knowing that though you still can't withstand it, still can't predict when it will hit, you have hope of surviving and recovering again. That your first experience has equipped you to be a little--even if just a little--more able to deal with a second.
In other words, this city may not be earthquake proof, but it is proof that earthquakes are not the end.
2 Timothy 2: 11-13.
For if we died with Him,
--to our sins, just as He died for our sins--
We shall also endure with Him.
If we endure,
--temptation and trials, just as He endured temptations and trials for us--
We shall also reign with Him.
If we deny Him,
--the place belonging to Him in our hearts and lives--
He also will deny us
--the place we were made for and intended for, in His heart and home.
If we are faithless,
--when we fail our promises, when our love cools, when we don't trust Him as He deserves--
He remains faithful--He cannot deny Himself.
For the longest time I could not understand 2 Timothy 2: 11-13. What was the logical progression between the correlative equations of the first three, and the seeming inconsistency of the last couplet?
Our relationship with Christ may seem like an equation on several levels. A promise of glory and greater good through suffering patiently endured, a promise of purity and perfection through purposeful overcoming of sin, as depicted in these verses. In our effort to motivate ourselves we reduce our relationship with Christ into a simplistic equation. If I want that, I have to do this.
But love is not an equation, and Christ's love for us is definitely not an equation. He loved us while we were still sinners, when there was no sign of us ever being worthy of that love. He loved us knowing that His love and His grace would have to be what changed us, that the force behind this relationship would have to be 100% His--not the '50-50' relationship that seems so ideal to us. We were suckers in more sense than one--parasitical, needy; 'high-maintenance' friends in other words.
And still, He loved.
His call to put off sin, to endure, to courageously accept, is a calling that is integral to His relationship to us as a Saviour--just as mentorship is an intrinsic aspect of your relationship with a coach or parent. He calls us away from what He came to save us from, and towards what He embodies.
But ultimately, Love is what characterizes and created this relationship, what sustains it--His love.
His love is what transforms 2 Timothy 2: 11-13 from a series of equations to a description of a relationship.
His love is an aspect of His character and not an evaluation of our worthiness.
And sometimes, that is all that gets me through the day, all that gives me hope and courage for living; for living with myself, for living with others, for living in this messed up and terribly painful world, a world and its people desperately in need of perfection.
a small voice
Ci thinks some of God's greatest blessings to mankind are